Readers may remember my review of the J-drama You’re Under Arrest! That was also my first real foray into Japanese (or Asian for that matter) dramas, and despite my seemingly harsh review, I had fun with it in the end. For that reason, I decided to look for another one to watch, and I picked Edison’s Mother (エジソンの母, ejison no haha) for my next one.
Edison’s Mother follows Ayukawa Noriko (Ito Misaki), an elementary school teacher whose new school year is already off to a terrible start. She had just been dumped by her fiance Professor Miura (Tanihara Shosuke), and her class winds up with Hanafusa Kento (Shimizu Yuya), a child known to cause trouble in his classes. However, Noriko soon learns that Kento may in fact be a prodigy. Thus it is up to her to nurture his inherent abilities while reigning in his socially awkward tendency.
Admittedly, I’m not all that familiar with the Japanese education system. However, I felt like how Kento was handled was the complete opposite of how a similar kid would have been dealt with in American schools. A teacher would most likely dismiss his constant asking of, “Why?” and his inability to sit still in his seat as symptoms of a learning disability and have him shunted into a Special Ed class, where he would be pumped full of meds so he could sit still and at least not bother the teacher as much. Also, as an engineering student at Cornell University, I’ll be damned if I ever met a professor like Miura, who appeared to be an (computer?) engineering professor. I don’t think professors who dress that nicely every day exist in real life.
Admittedly, I found Kento’s character to be a little bit on the annoying side throughout. It almost seemed like he was barely conscious of a world existing outside of himself, and his behavior honestly seemed like it could have been remedied with one stern scolding. Kento’s mother Aoi (Sakai Maki) could have followed Peter MacNicol’s character’s example in the Mr. Bean movie by telling Kento to, “Stay here and do nothing! If you do nothing, nothing can go wrong!”
Overall, the world of Edison’s Mother around Kento was much more interesting. The show was very much centered around Noriko, who was probably the most well-dressed teacher in existence, as she dealt with her personal problems in addition to those she encountered at work in school. When we first go to Monbu Elementary, we also meet Kagami-sensei (Matsushita Yuki), an older (but still very good-looking) teacher who is very much Noriko’s mentor. While she seems like she has everything under control at first with her experience, we learn more about the human behind her facade as the show goes on as well. As Kento ultimately proved to be the least interesting character of Edison’s Mother, I suspect the show actually could have been interesting if Kento was treated like the shark from Jaws in that we see the consequences of his actions without ever seeing him onscreen.
The main problem Edison’s Mother really had going against it was the fact that it had more characters than it could really handle in only ten episodes. We see quite a bit of Kubo-sensei, Noriko’s teaching assistant. However, he ultimately proved to be completely unnecessary. We know he’s an anime otaku who was recently dumped by his (unseen) girlfriend, but he basically bore no consequence to the story in the end. As a result of the vastness of the show’s cast, Edison’s Mother actually wound up with a subplot that wasn’t resolved by the show’s end.
I will say overall, Edison’s Mother was a more well-made drama than You’re Under Arrest! Unlike the episodic You’re Under Arrest!, Edison’s Mother was story-driven, and thus didn’t fall prey to the writers simply running out of ideas.
In the six years that transpired between the two shows, Ito Misaki’s acting had definitely improved (though thankfully she remains the beauty she was back in 2002). I think it did help that she was not stuck in a back seat to someone like Hara Sachie and thus was actually allowed to exercise her acting ability. I think more so than how he was scripted, it was Shimizu’s acting as Kento that made him so aggravating in my eyes. I know Shimizu was only 8 when he did this, but I felt just about every other child actor (and believe me, there were a lot of them) on this show did a better job than he did.
I did feel the show’s musical score could have used a little more variety. While it wasn’t bad, I felt I heard the same familiar tunes too many times. I think the use of an opera “Laaaa!” for Miura’s theme seemed an interesting (if a bit odd) choice.
I am surprised the show ended after only ten episodes. From what I’ve read, Edison’s Mother actually did decently throughout its run in ratings, and I don’t think the writers just were unable to come up with more story. I think I would have been happier if the show was either a couple episodes longer or if it shaved off some of its side characters as there clearly wasn’t enough script to go around. I describe Edison’s Mother the same way I do You’re Under Arrest! in that it is a flawed but fun J-drama. It’s not exactly a Mad Men-esque character study, but it gets the job done.
Note: This is a random thought, but as a denizen of Edison, NJ, I don’t know if I would have called this show Edison’s Mother. It’s true that Thomas Edison was the Mark Zuckerberg of his time. That is to say, he was extremely good at taking other people’s ideas and making money off them. I personally would have called the show something like Einstein’s Mother, but that’s just me I guess.